Backgrounder: Brief review on
HAVANA, April 15 (Xinhua) -- The decision by the U.S.
government to change its strategy and lift some restrictions on Cuba have
aroused multiple reactions in the island, among which there are hopes of a start
to the end of the decades-old economic blockade.
On Easter Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama lifted
restrictions on travel and money transfers to Cuba, opening a crack in a
47-year-old embargo against Havana.
Obama also authorized U.S. telecommunication firms to
open up investments in Cuba, as well as to hire radio and television satellite
services for people in the Caribbean nation.
The new measures overturned the policy imposed in
2004 by the Bush White House. The "Transition Plan toward a Free Cuba," also
know as Plan Bush, limited money remittances from Cuban Americans to their
families to 300 U.S. dollars every quarter, and visits to the island once every
three years with each lasting no longer than14 days.
The ban affected more than 1.5 million
Cuban-Americans whose families live in the island country.
After four years of these harmful measures, the Cuban
people felt relief in 2008 when Obama promised during his presidential campaign
to lift the ban and to start direct talks with the Cuban government with no
Obama's gesture was hailed by Cuban President Raul
Castro who showed his agreement to talk with the United States "without
intermediation" and in an "equality of conditions."
The position was echoed by the leader of the Cuban
Revolution, Fidel Castro, who reaffirmed in one of his "reflections" published
in a Cuban government website on April 6: "We are not afraid to talk with the
He praised in the same statement the position taken
by U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, who is in favor of discussions between the two
All the goodwill signals shuttling between the two
countries culminated in an April visit to Havana by a U.S. Congressional
delegation and a surprise meeting with Fidel Castro.
Six days after the visit, the U.S. announced the
lifting of money and travel restrictions toward the communist nation.
The Cuban reaction, different from before, came on
local radio and television immediately after the White House announcement.
Fidel Castro says the measures are creating
conditions so that Obama can use his talent in a constructive policy that ends
one that has failed for almost half a century.
The residents of the island were also happy about the
"They did not lift the blockade, but at least it is a
relief. Obama did what he promised and that is something in favor for future
talks," said Caridad, a 50-year-old Cuban engineer.
Pepe, a 70-year-old man who makes a living by
delivering bread,said he was tired of so much hostility during the last 13 U.S.
administrations and 10 American presidents.
Obama has so far been silent about revoking the
harshest of measures against Cuba but his friendly initiatives have created a
favorable atmosphere between the two countries similar to when President Carter
was in office from 1977 to 1981.
During the Carter administration, offices of interest
were opened in Washington and Havana, maritime frontiers were established
between Cuba, Mexico and the United States, and the right of American citizens
to travel to the island was recognized.
Some Cubans think that the normalization of bilateral
relations may take years, while others believe that the most important thing to
do is to take the very first steps.
In the United States, there is a positive opinion
toward the normalization of the ties, with 68 percent of those questioned in
favor of a change of policies toward Cuba, a survey finds.